Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The story of two paintings

In October 1879 Major-General Sir Frederick Roberts found an Afghan painting in Amir Sher Ali's palace in Kabul showing a mounted Afghan sardar riding alongside a running British solider and a dog. This painting was by an Afghan artist and was painted around the time of the First Afghan War (1838-1842) for an unknown Afghan patron. According to Farrukh Husain [1] the Firangi redcoat was a captured soldier reduced to slavery (but why a slave has a gun?). Perhaps the painting was simply demonstrating and symbolizing the victory of Afghans over Firangi invaders , that the latter were no better than dogs (therefore depicted running alongside a dog). The Afghan sardar is noticeably drawn larger than the Firangi to show the lordliness of the former and lowliness of the latter.

The painting greatly upset and disturbed Frederick Roberts and he had two of his officers paint a new version with the British and Afghan roles reversed, with a Trooper of the 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers riding alongside a running Afghan.

1- The author of "Afghanistan in the age of empires: the great game for South Asia and Central Asia"

A mounted Afghan chief, his dog and a Firangi on foot (possibly a slave), by unknown Afghan artist, 1842. Source

The painting made on the orders of  Frederick Roberts, 1879. Source 

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